One of President Clinton's favorite activities is traveling around the country to meet and talk to America's citizens. He relies not only on airplanes and helicopters, but also on the presidential motorcade to get him safely and quickly from place to place. The President's official vehicle in a motorcade is maintained by the United States Secret Service, and the support vehicles are maintained by the White House Military Office. These limousines and other vehicles are designed to provide the Commander in Chief with all the necessary equipment to handle emergency situations.
William McKinley was the first U.S. President to ride in an automobile, but it was during Theodore Roosevelt's Administration that the first government-owned car, a white Stanley Steamer, came into use. President Taft so fancied the "horseless carriage" that he cleared out the federal stables to make a garage. Woodrow Wilson rode to his 1913 Inauguration in a horse-drawn carriage but once in office proved an enthusiastic fan of motorized travel, even joining the American Automobile Association. President Warren Harding was the first to ride to his Inauguration by car, a Packard Twin-Six, and the first qualified driver to be elected President.
In 1950, the White House received ten specially built automobiles -- including a convertible with a Plexiglas roof, nicknamed "Bubbletop," which served Presidents Truman and Eisenhower and carried John F. Kennedy to his Inauguration.
"The President's Own"
If you've ever seen the President in person or at an official event on television, you may have heard "Hail to the Chief" playing in the background. The President has his own band to play that song and many American favorites. This special group of some 160 Marine Corps members, known as the United States Marine Band ("The President's Own"), provides music for the President and his guests at official and social occasions at the White House, and frequently performs for American citizens.
For over 200 years, Presidents, their visitors, and millions of Americans have enjoyed the music of the Band. "The President's Own" made its White House debut at a reception given by President and Mrs. John Adams on New Year's Day, 1801, and since that time the Band has furnished music for every President. It traveled with President Abraham Lincoln when he delivered the Gettysburg Address and played at the dedications of the Statue of Liberty, the Washington Monument, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
There are many stories about "The President's Own." President Rutherford Hayes, not liking to stay up late, used to instruct the group to play "Home Sweet Home" right after White House dinners, hoping his guests would take the hint and leave. President Warren Harding loved music and could play several instruments; on many occasions he joined the musicians during rehearsals. "The Marine Band is the only force that cannot be transferred from the Washington area without my express permission," President Kennedy once declared. A musician himself, President Clinton enjoys listening to the Band.
"The President's Own" holds a special place in our Nation's heritage, and we can be proud that it has carried the rich sounds of America around the world. The music the Band plays is a stirring reminder of our history and the great traditions of the American Presidency.
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